Formula 1 Insight

Prodrive's Plans Progress
Prodrive has given assurances that its talks with McLaren over using their chassis are progressing well and that they will be on the grid next year. What amuses me about Prodrive's press release, however, is their assertion that McLaren is only one of three options available to them. Yes, of course they have options (maybe) but who would want anything other than a McLaren at the moment?

Gary Paffett
Gary Paffett in the McLaren

For a small team to enter the game with a front-running chassis is going to be a bit of a shock to the other teams. If Honda are embarrassed now, imagine how they will feel next year. And that might mean there will be more difficulty than expected in the customer car regulation being accepted for 2008. Mighty Max supports it, we know, but some of the teams are bound to quibble.

So far only Spyker and Williams have cast doubt on the new regulation but there could be others when the time comes to rubber stamp it. Presumably it will be passed after sweeteners are offered; otherwise all Prodrive's plans will be in disarray, not to mention renewed problems for Toro Rosso and Super Aguri (although SA are saying that they will build their own chassis next year - I'll believe it when I see it).

Personally, I hope that customer cars are allowed. It has often been said that any of the new drivers could have done as well as Hamilton had they been in a McLaren this year; Prodrive will give us an opportunity to see just how true that is, especially if Gary Paffett is taken on as one of the drivers.

Not that I am expecting Prodrive to be on the pace of the top teams immediately - inevitably it will take time for the team to settle and get the best from the car. But, judging from Super Aguri's exceptional progress over the last two years, we might not have long to wait. And that would give Gary a chance to prove his ability and talent. His resume is strong although F1 has a habit of ignoring such things.

So far, this season has been the most interesting for years in various ways; with a completely new team joining the fray, and one potentially very competitive, 2008 could be even better.


Dan M
What if somehow, Prorive manages to win the titles, does the constructors trophy go to McLaren?

I personally don't like this, one of the things that has made F1 different from all other competing series and the variety of designs that are on the track. I would personally like things to go in the other direction. Build your own car, but open of the rules a little so we see some radical designs.

What happens if a couple of the major manufacturers pull out? Say Honda Toyota Spyker and Renault become fed up with all this losing (Renault has stated that if there not competitive they will leave the sport, possibly just supplying engines). Will we have 4 or 5 smaller teams that all use one chassis? Presumably they would also use the same engine also. Sounds like any other series to me.
Date Added: 23/08/2007

I don't see it going that way, Dan. The customer car rule surely means that more small teams will be able to enter F1 and we could return to the situation of the seventies when lots of little outfits bought a McLaren M23 or two, a Cosworth engine, and went racing. Many of them didn't survive because it takes more than a decent chassis/engine combination to win in F1 but a few went on to start building their own cars (Williams is the best example) and became major players.

And who cares if the manufacturer teams get fed up and leave? They are only in the game for the promotional aspects and will leave sooner or later anyway. Their more natural relationship to F1 is as engine suppliers - the arcane business of designing and developing modern racing chassis is better left to small groups than can be flexible enough to stay ahead of the game. And small teams are the ones who will produce radical designs as they have more incentive to find new ways to catch up with the big ones. Manufacturers tend to rely on development of what they know already.

I'm not sure whether the business of constructor's points going to customer teams has been sorted out yet. I think this will be one of the negotiating cards that the FIA will use to get the regulations agreed to. It will be interesting to see what they do in that regard.

As far as I'm aware, Prodrive will get Mercedes engines with the McLaren chassis - there doesn't seem to have been any doubt on that, presumably because it's a package deal. It's a good deal for Mercedes too because they get two extra chances for their engines to win GPs - look how many engines Ferrari is supplying this year, although, as usual, no-one but Ferrari itself seems to be able to put them in a good chassis. But the Mercedes will be in what is known to be a good chassis. Makes you think, doesn't it?
Date Added: 23/08/2007

If I was Super Aguri and was about to be handed this year's Honda to run next season then I'd be wanting to build my own chassis as well!!!
Date Added: 23/08/2007

Hmmm, I think you've just explained why SA have to build their own chassis for next year, Craig!
Date Added: 23/08/2007

Dan M
I guess I've been convinced again......

I would like to see some kinda of rule that would limit how many teams one constructor can provide to but this would be unfair to the teams I believe. I'm still not totally in favor of this, in a perfect world everyone would build their own chassis and we would have 30 car races. Thats not going to happen anytime soon.

I guess this is all a measure to cut costs but I would much rather see the costs cut by having chassis that are not so damn expensive to research and make. Raise the overall weight so less expensive alternatives can be used (metal on a race car!? Blasphemy!), and get rid of all the areodynamics that cost a small fortune to research and develop. The saying goes "If they cant spend it on aerodynamics they'll spend it somewhere else"-thats only true if they can't win with a less expensive example.

Date Added: 23/08/2007

Yes, I would be in favor of a rule that limits how many cars can be supplied by a constructor to customers - otherwise we could end up with a one-make formula. And I think some very expensive materials should be outlawed too. I wonder if anyone would remember how to make a race car with using carbon fiber?

But an important part of making the cars heavier ought to be a ban on refueling. I was always against refueling from the safety aspect but cars with tanks big enough to last the race would have to be bigger and heavier. Either that or the engine designers would have to work harder on fuel efficient power units. It seems obvious to me - and a necessary step to improving the racing as well. Ban refueling!
Date Added: 23/08/2007

Alianora La Canta
I don't trust Prodrive's PR department. After they said they'd announce their package at the British GP and then failing either to do so or to explain why, I think they may have been over-optimistic again.
Date Added: 24/08/2007

Unfortunately, we have little to go on apart from the press releases from the PR department, Alianora. I don't think it's necessary to actually trust them but they provide fuel for speculation, perhaps. A matter for the proverbial pinch of salt, I think... ;)
Date Added: 24/08/2007

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